Learning Business 101 from Google

Ken Auletta, in his new book  Googled: The End of the World as We Know it, gives us ten basic business lessons that we should learn from Google.  CNN Money.com recently featured an article written by Auletta which should be read in its entirety at http://money.cnn.com/2009/10/22/technology/auletta_maxims.fortune/index.htm

Here are the ten lessons discussed in the article.

  1. Passion wins — There are many reasons for starting and growing a business.  But the zeal that comes with passion for what you really love doing can make the difference between a business that grows and one that stagnates.
  2. Focus is required –  But passion without focus can lead you astray.  Focus doesn’t mean saying “yes” to the one thing that you consider most important.  Focus is saying no to the 100 other good ideas that you discover along the way.  You have to pick carefully.
  3. Vision is required too – “Without vision, even the most focused passion is a battery without a device.”  Google’s vision to make “all the world’s information available and to first and foremost serve users” is what drove their stepping into uncharted territory and eventually led to their success.
  4. A team culture is vital – Google has managed to establish a networked management model that functions from the bottom up as well as the top down.  A sense of proprietorship unleashes ideas and effort from employees that overwise would never see the light of day.
  5. Treat engineers as kings – Those who produce for you are the most important people in your business.  I’ve heard gift company owners say they would be lost without that employee who ties the beautiful bows or creates the ideas. 
  6. Treat customers like a king – This is a mistake that many businesses make.  Advertising produces 97% of Google’s revenue but the customers don’t realize it as they use Google’s service which are free and user friendly.  They feel that the only reason Google created those services is to make their lives better.  Google’s adage for employees is similar to Sam Walton’s:  “If you don’t listen to your customers, someone else will.”
  7. Every company is a frenemy – Google operates under the principle that there are no permanent allies, only permanent interests.  The internet blurs the borders between companies creating allies and competition which is oftentimes difficult to tell apart.
  8. Don’t ignore the human factor – The deeper you dig into a situation, the more complicated people become.  Many decisions are not made as a result of logic but of emotions based on experiences that you may have never dreamed of and will probably never know or understand.  All of us have had occasions when making decisions about our business future is not about business but about us and who we are.  Remember the same is true of our employees, customers, and even our competition.
  9. There are no certitudes –  None of us have any guarantees that our business will be here tomorrow or even that we will be.  Google appears impregnable.  But so did AOL and IBM .  Our business models have to be constantly looked at and changed as needed based on current circumstances, economic factors, and our reason for existing.
  10. Life is long but time is short –  These words belong to Eric Schmidt, who explained, “Life is long in the sense that we have long memories.  Time is short in that you have to move very quickly.  But to me the most important thing to know is that life has a way of working things out.  We forget so quickly what the problem was three or four years ago.  So my personal view of life is that every problem is an opportunity.”    Google has taken this to heart as they think and act boldly, take risks, and are not tied down by long memories.

Lessons can be learned from any business.   I’ve read lots of business books and taken lots of business classes.  I even teach a few.  But the most amazing insights that have affected my own business haven’t come from books, magazines, or classes.  Most actually come from people who really aren’t in my industry or sometimes they are not in business at all.

Marketing and Promotion — Do you have an idea file?

A question to ask yourself each night is:

 What have you done to promote your business today?

Other valuable questions are: 

  • What did you learn today?
  • What new promotion did you hear about this week that you could adopt or adapt for your business?
  • What technique did you read about that could make your business more efficient?
  • What new website did you hear about that can help your business?

Rick Siegel, a master at retail selling, suggests creating an idea book.  This is something I have been doing for years but I have called it a swipe file.

You can use a file on your computer, buy a notebook just for the “idea file” purpose, or set up a folder in your filing system or even use all three methods.  Each and every time you read or hear something that you could use and adapt, add it to your “idea file”.

 I collect ads, from every kind of publication ranging from the daily newspaper, the Wall Street Journal and even AARP magazine, that trigger an ah-ha moment.  Looking through this file, ideas are generated for headlines, graphics, and even descriptions.  It’s like having more brains than my own working together to create effective marketing materials.

For example, an ad that I cut out of the Wall Street Journal several years ago was something about an investment company not being a cookie-cutter company.  I took the idea from my “swipe file” and created an ad with a graphic of a gingerbread man and the headline “Creative Gifts To Go is not a cookie-cutter gift business.”

Try an “idea file” for yourself.  I think you’ll be surprised at how helpful it can be